We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Thoughts on crime fiction – provoked by the recent publication of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins

Some time towards the end of last year, my niece Roz emailed me to the effect that she was in London, and would I care to meet up with her for some coffee? I was intrigued. Because of our differing political views, Roz and I have had a polite but somewhat distant relationship. She is into feminism and environmentalism. I am into, well …: see all my other postings here. What was going on? Why this meet-up? I knew some unusual game was afoot. But what?

We duly met up, and after some further polite chit-chat, what was afoot was revealed. Roz had written a crime novel, called The Devil’s Dice. This book, she said, was in the process of being published, by a real publisher of the sort that you have heard of. I like crime novels, and I like detective dramas on television. And I know how hard writing it can be to write anything even as long as a longish blog posting (such as this one is (you have been warned)), let alone a book. So, I was impressed.

Although she didn’t spell this out, it was clear that Roz was then at the stage of communicating with everyone she could think of who might be able to help her sell this book. Which also impressed me. Good for her. And good for her also, and good for me, that she was content to include me in this process. Later, an advance copy of the book arrived at my home, in a bright gold bubble-wrapped package, together with some chocolate dice, in a little bag made of bright red netting.

I read the book, and found it thoroughly absorbing and entertaining. She writes really well.

A quote from the book? Try the dedication:

To my parents.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and advice on how to kill people.

Roz’s mum, my older sister, was a National Health Service doctor, and her husband was a psychiatric social worker. Short of having parents who were directly involved in the criminal justice machine, like detectives or coroners or forensic pathologists or suchlike, a crime writer couldn’t ask for a better start.

→ Continue reading: Thoughts on crime fiction – provoked by the recent publication of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins

Yezhov would have been proud of this ‘self-purging’ British Police officer

An unnamed West Yorkshire police officer has managed to attempt to pervert the course of justice by getting himself summonsed for driving an untaxed vehicle, when he accidentally put his own details on a form instead of those of the alleged miscreant, reports the Daily Mail.

Members of West Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Unit (RPU) took to Twitter to mock another member of their team who appears to have put his own name on a form rather than the real offender.

I’m pretty sure that a humourless American prosecutor would seize on this as obstruction of justice by wrongly reporting yourself as the ‘perp’, and to be fair, it does seem to have all the necessary elements of causing wasteful employment of police time in UK law.

Our wonderful mini plea-bargain system of fixed penalty notices in the UK allows you to buy off a prosecution, or go to Court and challenge the basis of the ticket and risk conviction.

Whilst the UK may seem more and more like East Germany as time goes by, witness recent police action on free speech, it is heartening that the police are managing to boost their summons rates in a way that cuts out the unfortunate middleman, like the Armenian Orthodox Priest in Soviet Russia who, having a conspiracy beaten out of him by Stalin’s NKVD, managed to name as his co-conspirators every member of his congregation that he had buried in the past 3 years, thus enabling his tormentors to fill their quota with ‘real’ people. At least for now, this is a laughing matter. Should Comrade Yezhov‘s admirers take power, it might not be so nice.

While we’re at it, why not gas the dog?

Mark Meechan a.k.a. “Count Dankula”, the man who imperilled us all by making a funny video of a little dog lifting its paw like a Nazi salute, has been found guilty of a crime under the Communications Act 2003 at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

If we are handing out punishments to obvious non-Nazis for doing stuff that reminds people of Nazis I don’t see why that Seig-Heiling pug should get away scot-free.

A book from the future?

Hopefully from a future in a parallel universe…

(found sloshing around on the interwebz)

Chimpocracy is clearly the way forward…

California Would Be Less Stupidly Run If We Let Chimps Vote Instead Of People.

Because chimps would vote at random, we’d at least have some chance of having sensible choices made — unlike those so often by our idiot electorate.

Amy Alkon

Of course, the same is true pretty much everywhere, not just California…

Chimpocracy clearly has much to commend it.

The Gullibility of Cynicism

Under these conditions, you could make people believe the most fantastic lies one day, and if the next day they were presented with irrefutable proof that their leaders had lied, they would take refuge in cynicism: they would protest that they had always known they were lies, and admire their leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.     (‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’, Hannah Arendt)

Arendt states that ideology and terror are two sides of the same coin, preparing people for their two-sided role as persecutor or victim in a totalitarian state. She never quite says – but it is close to the surface in several remarks – that cynicism and gullibility are likewise two sides of the same coin, not opposites at all, preparing people for their two-sided role as liar or dupe in enforcing political correctness.

Jeremy Corbyn does not trust the UK’s forensics and wants the nerve gas sent to Russia for their analysis. Mr Ed may be right that Corbyn’s reported statement – that “the nerve agent be sent back to Russia” – reveals his true opinion, but the boy who came from a posh-enough background, attended a grammar school, and yet managed to leave it with two Es, is quite thick enough both to reveal an unconscious assumption and to believe his conscious words. Jeremy is too cynical to credit UK forensics – so he wants Putin’s people to examine the evidence and announce whether Putin did it or not. (One might guess he likewise thinks reports of Russian athletic doping are western lies – after all, Putin’s experts say so – and be even more sure he thought that in the days when the ‘peoples republics’ won many an olympic medal. But perhaps even Jeremy is not rash enough to say so – there are voters who ignore politics but understand sport well enough. 🙂 )

Scepticism can be very healthy (this blog has always had a very healthy number of eurosceptics 🙂 ). But when you want to believe the forensic analysis of the Russian state because you are too cynical to believe the forensic analysis of the British state then you have indeed demonstrated Arendt’s point: cynicism and gullibility are not opposites. The precise evidential value of the UK’s ongoing forensic tests can be debated. The evidential value of anything announced by Russia, were Corbyn’s idiot demand acted on, cannot be.

Samizdata quote of the day

[Corbyn’s] Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and his Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith both saw that briefing and agreed there was “prima facie evidence” and said the party “fully accepts that Russia is responsible”.

Corbyn said he didn’t trust British scientists and British intelligence services, and suggested samples of the nerve agent be sent back to Russia because he DID trust them and Russia had asked to see the evidence.

Fleet Street Fox

The article is ‘all over the place’ regarding the USSR (to be charitable) but it does make this rather good point.

Samizdata quote of the day

…as I have complained about in the past, there has been a major shift in modern companies from delivering something useful – such as a bridge which doesn’t collapse – to managing processes. A lot of companies have subcontracted out the actual work – designing, building, manufacturing, operating, maintaining – and instead busy themselves with “managing” the whole process. This involves lots of well-educated people in nice clothes sitting in glass-fronted office buildings sharing spreadsheets, reports, and PowerPoint presentations by email and holding lengthy meetings during which they convince one another of how essential they are.

Tim Newman speculating on the causes of the Florida footbridge collapse.

Russia has been horrible for a long time

Amidst some of the commentary about the recent murders – attributed by the UK government to Russian operatives – in the UK, much has been written and said about the less-than-stellar response, in the eyes of many (including those on the political left) of Jeremy Corbyn. Now, my take on Corbyn is rather like that of George Orwell on leftist intellectuals (he was one of them, mind), which is that they’d sooner be caught stealing from a church charity plate than admitting they loved their country.

Even so, it is worth asking the question of quite why certain folk on the left are so beguiled by Russia. After all, in certain respects Putin is not their kind of hero. For a start, he is quite a “man’s man”, strutting about bare-chested, holding guns and riding horses; his regime isn’t nice to homosexuals, seems to extract a lot of CO2-producing gasses, and so on. There are no “safe spaces” in Russian schools and universities, I would guess.

However, it is worth noting that there was never really a time when the situation, particularly post-1917 and up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, was better. And this Daily Mirror writer comes up with a comment so flawed that for a second I thought it was some sort of parody. For the writer (adopting a sort of pen-name) suggests that poor old Corbyn is besotted with the shining image of a glorious Soviet Union that once – in the writer’s opinion – existed in its early years before certain things, inexplicably, went wrong. It had “free” healthcare, employment “rights” and a nifty big public sector. And it was egalitarian! The writer appears to buy this rosy view of Soviet Russia (the fact that opponents of Communism were murdered from day one appears not to register). The writer does not note the most important divide of all: the split between those who have power, and those who don’t, over others. The inequality in wealth of early 21st Century America or Europe is nothing compared to the inequality between the party bosses in, say, 1950 and that which exists in wealth terms in a Western liberal democracy. Wealth and coercive power are entirely different things.

The things that went wrong in the Soviet Empire were integral the very nature of collectivism itself; failure to understand that wealth inequality is entirely different from differences in coercive power is at the root of why leftists, and collectivists of all hues, get things like the Soviet Union wrong. The project was doomed because its underlying rationale was built on sand. (Here is a new and acclaimed biography of Lenin, making the point that what was set up in Russia was evil and mad from the start.)

So far from being an incisive takedown of Corbyn, the Daily Mirror article sort of affirms his infatuation with communism and says the main problem now is that Russia is run by thugs, as if what happened from 1917 onwards was ever going to be any different. When power is centralised, what does this writer expect will happen? And perhaps it is fitting to conclude that anyone who wonders “where did the dream of Soviet Russia go wrong?” should sit down with this 1944 masterpiece by a certain FA Hayek.

Discussion point: What should the UK do about the Skripal case?

The basic facts are given in this Wikipedia page: Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and there is a BBC “What we know so far” piece here. I keep hoping to read somewhere that they are beginning to recover. I keep not doing it.

What should the UK government do? What do you think about the measures it has taken so far?

Here are some opinions from several different points of view to get you started:

What can Theresa May do about Russia over the Salisbury poisoning? – Dominic Waghorn, Sky TV.

After the Skripal attack, talk of war only plays into Vladimir Putin’s hands – Simon Jenkins in the Guardian.

Alex Salmond: Don’t shut down my TV show over spy attack – Andy McLaren, STV News.

Fair play in the Scottish Parliament

In 2011 the Scottish Government Executive* passed the stunningly illiberal Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Judge it by its defenders: a Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament called John Mason said, “We should all know by now expressing political views is no longer acceptable at football matches.”

He framed the issue as if the only thing required of citizens was that they should keep up to date with the inexorable increase in what is deemed “unacceptable” (to whom is never specified). Once they know the rules, they will of course comply, so politics becomes merely a matter of Filch hammering up new decrees on Hogwarts wall.

Earlier posts on the same topic were “New stirrings at the Old Firm” and “Free speech for all (neds need not apply)”.

But, for once, a Ministry decree has been removed from the wall.

The BBC reports:

MSPs vote to repeal football bigotry law

MSPs have voted to repeal Scotland’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The legislation was passed by the then-majority SNP government in 2011 in a bid to crack down on sectarianism.

But all four opposition parties argued for it to be scrapped, saying it unfairly targets football fans and has failed to tackle the problem.

Ministers argued the move was “foolhardy” but were outvoted by 62 to 60, meaning the Football Act will be taken off the statute book in April.

The legislation has deeply divided opinion from the start, with those who support it saying it was needed to fight the scourge of sectarianism within Scottish football.

But opponents say the law treats football fans as “second class citizens”, and is not needed as police and the courts already had sufficient powers to deal with offensive behaviour.

They also claim that the law is badly worded, and therefore open to different interpretations of what is and is not “offensive behaviour”.

*As Sam Duncan S reminds me, in 2011 it had not yet decided got permission to call itself a Government. Added later: apologies again, Duncan S, not Sam Duncan. This post is jinxed.

Samizdata quote of the day

In Britain in the 21st century you can be punished for mocking gods. You can be expelled from the kingdom, frozen out, if you dare to diss Allah. Perversely adopting medieval Islamic blasphemy laws, modern Britain has made it clear that it will tolerate no individual who says scurrilous or reviling things about the Islamic god or prophet. Witness the authorities’ refusal to grant entrance to the nation to the alt-right Christian YouTuber Lauren Southern. Her crime? She once distributed a leaflet in Luton with the words ‘Allah is gay, Allah is trans, Allah is lesbian…’, and according to the letter she received from the Home Office informing her of her ban from Britain, such behaviour poses a ‘threat to the fundamental interests of [British] society’.

This is a very serious matter and the lack of outrage about it in the mainstream press, not least among those who call themselves liberal, is deeply disturbing.

Brendan O’Neill